Rating: 4.5 Stars
The following review contains spoilers.
After the chaos of the Battle of New York and the Fall of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra acquired Loki’s scepter, and they’re using its almost infinite power to create enhanced people and weapons, continuing their goal of world domination. Before Hydra can execute their plans, the Avengers storm the Hydra base, take out the leaders, and get the scepter back. Back at Avengers Tower, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner examine the scepter and see what looks like an incredibly advanced artificial intelligence living inside.
Stark and Banner attempt to interface with the scepter’s A.I., hoping they can use it to create a global peacekeeping program called Ultron, but once the A.I. gets out, it merges with and quickly overwhelms Stark’s Ultron software, developing its own ideas about what it means to keep the peace. The Ultron program returns to the Hydra base, takes over the robot bodies and manufacturing system Hydra had been preparing, and seeks out the enhanced humans, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, that it had helped Hydra create. Together they want to save the world from the team of monsters and killers that’s declared itself Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: The Avengers.
I have no objectivity when it comes to these characters. I just love hanging out with this movie. The best scene (non-action category) is the team simply hanging out after the party taking turns trying to lift Thor’s hammer. And all the little details, like the hammer budging slightly when Captain America pulls at it and the worried look on Thor’s face, fill the movie with life and energy and charisma. This is a very fun and very funny and very charming movie.
Is the ending of Age of Ultron pretty much the same as the ending to the first film? Sure, but I loved it. I love taking a few beats with each character as they creatively use their powers to beat up bad guys and save bystanders. You could see it as Marvel thumbing their nose at Man of Steel, but the huge emphasis on limiting casualties and evacuating civilians is more than that, it’s also the theme of the movie. Ultron says the Avengers are monsters (the Avengers themselves sometimes say they’re monsters), and the ending of the movie is about proving they have value and are a positive contribution to the world. And the choreography and inventiveness of the action doesn’t hurt (like Captain America wedging his shield in an Ultron’s shoulder and then drop kicking the shield to cut its head off).
They fixed Hawkeye! Well, you can’t really fix Hawkeye without recasting him, but sure, they fixed Hawkeye! He’s the only person on the team who’s objectively not a monster. He’s just a human being, doing his job (“Honey, you know I support your avenging…”), with no super powers, or suit of armor, or magic hammer. He wasn’t even raised in a secret murder school. Hawkeye’s speech to Scarlet Witch about putting the past behind her and doing the job is a major highlight (“The city’s flying — the city is flying? — and there’s an army of robots, and I’ve got a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense.”) and Quicksilver’s sacrifice resonates not just because we like Quicksilver, but because he saves Hawkeye, and now we like him too.
Thor’s side-story makes no sense. Basically, he has a vision of the future, then goes to see Dr. Selvig (who, I’m almost positive, is not an expert in Norse mythology but a hard-science guy who worked with Jane Foster on astronomy or physics or something), who helps him obtain [DELETED SCENE] and they use this box to find a magic pool, and the magic pool shows Thor [DELETED SCENE] and so he uses his lightning to bring the Vision to life.
I get the Black Widow and Hulk romance on some level. It makes sense when she says he’s the only guy she knows that avoids the fight because he knows he’ll win. But it also feels rushed, and a little one-sided, and though it plays into the theme of “Are these guys just monsters or what?” it feels totally separate. And then having Widow captured and locked in a cage by Ultron is completely wrong-headed. There are any number of ways to get the Avengers to figure out the location of Ultron’s base, and the way they chose was not a great way.
It’s not clear to me why interfacing with the mind stone the first time releases Ultron and interfacing with it the second time creates the Vision. I can speculate all day long (Maybe it’s because Ultron was implanted in the mind stone by Hydra and now he’s gone, and the mind stone is naturally peaceful? Maybe it’s because the Ultron program was crappy and merging with it created a jerk, and the JARVIS program is nice and merging with it created a good guy? Maybe it’s because the Vision is partially organic – with a brain that can be read by a telepath – and the human factor makes all the difference?) but that’s all “no-prize” stuff and I don’t think the movie supports any particular interpretation. The whole Vision introduction in general feels rushed, and he drops out of the main battle at the end for several long minutes (though Vision picking up the hammer is a great Wow! moment).